18 Titanoboa Facts World’s biggest Snake Ever
Cretaceous-Tertiary Extinction Event–or K/T Extinction Event
First Appearance … Titanoboa made its appearance during the Paleocene epoch and was one of the first large reptiles to reclaim ecological niches that appeared after dinosaurs and marine reptiles died off at the end of the Cretaceous period. Those animals vanished after the K/T Extinction event — or the Cretaceous-Tertiary Extinction Event — some 65 million years ago.
What’s in a name? … Because of its name, it’s easy to imagine that Titanoboa — or “titanic boa” behaved like today’s boa constrictor .. wrapping itself around its victim, then squeezing until its prey suffocates. More likely, the big snake stayed half-submerged in water, slithering close to its unaware victim. Then it would dramatically leap and clamp its huge jaws around the windpipe of its prey. You wouldn’t think of a boa constrictor hunting prey like a crocodile!
The Rightful King — Gigantophis was a 33-foot long snake that weighed a thousand pounds, and was widely hailed as the king of snakes. But along slithers Titanoboa, weighing in at more than a ton and stretching more than 40 feet long! And adding insult to injury, Titanoboa showed up some 40 million years earlier.
Size Matters — Titanoboa truly was titanic compared to many of today’s snakes around twice as long as today’s longest snakes. But today’s Giant Anaconda has nothing to be ashamed about. Larger specimens have have weighed around 500 pounds and measured 25 feet head to tail. Good luck trying to get shove that into carry on luggage!
Fight Club … Along with a gigantic snake, it seems that South America during the early Paleocene was home to a giant snapping turtle as well. Remains of the one-ton snapping turtle Carbonemys have been located in the same area as fossils of Titanoboa. Some experts think there’s a chance these two giant animals might have clashed from time to time. That would make for a great fight card … Who do you think would win?
Undercover — Many of today’s venomous snakes have brightly colored markings, or distinct patterns. But Titanoboa and many other reptiles in its environment had no such markings. Any noticeable color or pattern could have served to warn prey of the snake’s presence … And this animal obtained its food by sneaking up on its prey.
NYC Snake — Did you know a Titanoboa was actually spotted at Grand Central Station in New York City. In 2012 the Smithsonian Institution had a 48-foot-long model of the beast installed in the busy rail terminal. A museum spokesman claimed the exhibit was there to “scare the hell out of people”. It also may have had something to do with the Smithsonian Tv special called, “Titanoboa: Monster Snake”.
Fossil Factory — Since 2004, the fossils of 28 Titanoboa snakes were discovered in Cerrejon, Columbia’s biggest mining operation and one of the largest open pit mines in the world. Why were so many Titanoboa fossils found in this region? It’s believed that warm tropical climates were a big reason for their enormous size. Snakes require warmer temperatures to charge their metabolism. It’s believed that the warm climate allowed cold-blooded creatures to grow to such immense sizes.
Big as a Bus — Without competition from the dinosaurs, Titanoboa was the largest predator in the world for some 10 million years. Its enormous size would make you think of something out of a horror movie. To put things in perspective, take a look at this graph from snake-facts.weebly.com … Titanoboa was longer than a 40 foot bus and could lift its tail over 6 feet high, taller than an adult human. How would you like to see that slithering around in your garden?
Titanoboa Extinction — What happened to the King Snake? Snakes are ectothermic animals, meaning that cannot regulate their own body temperature. Titanoboa would have had to rely on external heat to survive. A theory suggests that climate change may have played a part in the snake’s extinction. As global temperatures cooled, reptiles evolved into smaller sizes. Eventually smaller snakes took the place of the huge snake. Changing habitats is another possibility to explain the animal’s extinction. It could have had a larger geographic range than what we know now. But that would have to be confirmed by future fossil discoveries.
Food Fight — At the Cerrejon mine in Colombia, not only were fossils of Titanoboa found … Also discovered were the 60 million-year-old fossils of a new species of prehistoric crocodile, that measured 20 feet long! Because of this creature’s long snout, it’s thought that liked to dine on fish … which was also a meal favored by Titanoboa. It’s very likely that these two heavyweight reptiles had their own version of a prehistoric food fight!
Is It Really Real? — Is this an actual skeleton of Titanoboa? Some people thought so. It does look impressive, but this picture from snopes.com isn’t the real thing. It’s actually a sculpture made in 2012 by a Chinese French artist, and is displayed at Brisbane’s Queensland Art Gallery in Australia. Bet you knew it all along.
A Great Weight — Did you know that Titanoboa could crush its prey with the constricting force of 400 pounds per square inch! That would be like having one and a half times the weight of the entire Brooklyn Bridge crashing down on you! You wouldn’t want to give this snake a friendly hug!
Coming Back? — It’s been noted that Titanoboa likely attained its massive size because of warmer temperatures that occurred after the dinosaurs died off some 60 million years ago. Fossils of tropical plants found at the Cerrejon site suggest that the ecosystem in general can cope with higher temperatures and higher levels of CO2, which were 50% higher millions of years ago. If plants and animals today have the genetic ability to cope with global warming, could Titanoboa one day return? Dr Carlos Jaramillo a scientist with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute speculates that as global temperatures increase, there’s a chance Titanoboa might possibly return … in a million years or so! Let the countdown begin
Nice Visual — To put Titanoboa’s size into visual perspective, check out this picture of the big snake’s vertebrae from wired.com. See how it fills the man’s hand? Well, the vertebrae of a medium to large sized python would be about the size of the man’s thumbnail. But who’s counting?
Sizing Them Up — Where does Titanoboa rate when compared to other snakes? Well it ranks number one of course. Take a look at this graphic from preshitoric-wildlife.com … Titanoboa’s nearest challenger would be Gigantophis at 33 feet long. Today’s Green Anaconda measures around 15 feet, while the reticulated Python checks in at around 22 feet.
Nice Choppers … While Titanoboa constricted and suffocated its prey to death, that wasn’t the only weapon in its arsenal. It had no fangs for injecting venom but , but it did have teeth nonetheless. Its teeth were very thin but sharp, like needles, and grew in rows in the animal’s upper and lower jaws. The teeth were adapted for holding its prey in place by puncturing its soft tissues. It’s also thought that Titanoboa’s teeth were strongly recurved, bending like hooks and facing inward, toward the throat. In effect the snake’s teeth are designed to make it impossible for prey to break free.
What’s For Dinner? — Evidence from the Cerrejon excavation in Colombia suggests that Titanoboa may have preyed upon giant turtles like Carbonemys, which had a shell that measured up to 6 feet long. If the snake did hunt these turtles, it likely would have pursued smaller, juvenile victims. Another possible food source were crocodiles. Even today larger snakes like anacondas have been known to attack and consume the predator. Fish were another likely food source for Titanoboa, and evidence suggests it preyed on lungfish, which grew to nearly 10 feet long. One last possibility might seem the least appetizing: Cannibalism. Snakes in the wild have been known to consume each other. If Titanoboa was similar to other constrictors, the females would have been markedly larger than the males. Meaning, the female may well have eaten the male for a nice snack. No question about who would pick up the check.